Palestine’s moment of truth — II

Published: October 2, 2011
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The writer was foreign secretary from 1989-90 and is a former chairman of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad

The writer was foreign secretary from 1989-90 and is a former chairman of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad

President Mahmoud Abbas’s address to the UN General Assembly was by global consensus, his finest hour. A leader who never possessed the charisma and verve of Yasser Arafat and had often been derided as an eternal appeaser withstood almost intolerable American pressure and made a bold attempt to break the stranglehold of the moribund Oslo process. He would seek negotiations in future as the head of a state, not a vague entity, and that only when the international community shows willingness to stop the colonisation of Palestine. Regrettably, President Barack Obama’s speech at the same forum had portrayed Israel as the aggrieved party. Abbas retaliated, by breaking a major western taboo: he reminded the world that Israel was racist and practised apartheid.

Israel has perpetuated occupation of Arab lands for 45 years, to construct ever expanding Jewish settlements in it. In April 2004, President Bush wrote his infamous letter to Sharon, supporting Israeli retention of these “settlement blocs” and opposing the Palestinian right of return. Henceforth, any bilateral negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel were foredoomed to failure. Obama’s retreat from a position diametrically different from that of Bush, forced even Mahmud Abbas to build freezing of settlement construction into a precondition for talks and also renew the quest for statehood. His current defiance of the West is the last effort to prevent the final burial of a two-state solution by Israel through appropriations that shrink the Arab land by the week.

Abbas faces formidable obstacles: he cannot force the pace at the UN Security Council because he lacks the nine votes required by his request, even though its adoption would trigger an American veto. It is not clear when he would go to the General Assembly where a resolution granting non-member statehood will receive strong support. Armed with it, Mahmoud Abbas can forestall, for some time, another intifada that may ignite a regional conflagration. What has changed for him is that he cannot return to a soft posture on colonisation, including that of East Jerusalem. The stakes are so heavy high, that Abbas may eventually conclude that the momentum of colonisation can be broken only by taking the risks of a mass uprising.

In pure military terms, the balance of power is in Israel’s favour. But this advantage is being offset by far- reaching changes in the strategic landscape. The new Egyptian regime will reflect a new modus vivendi between the army and resurgent political groups ranging from nationalists to Muslim brotherhood. It will not provide space to Israel that Hosni Mubarak did for three decades. Turkey’s disenchantment with Israel goes beyond the murderous Israeli assault on the peace flotilla; it is also becoming a requisite of its new political and economic role. As Prince Turki al-Faisal warned in a forthright article in the New York Times, President Obama’s abandonment of his earlier position on the Arab-Israel issue might force Saudi Arabia to review ties with Maliki’s government in Iraq, a development that would probably drive Maliki closer to Iran. Hezbollah acquitted itself better than Arab armies during Israel’s last invasion of Lebanon. The crisis in Syria may affect its capability but would not neutralise it. Iran’s progress in missile development is another factor to reckon with. America is finding it increasingly difficult to find a satisfactory exit strategy in Afghanistan. The current strains between Washington and Islamabad weaken pro-western forces in the region. India is an ally of the United States but its domestic dynamics and external ambitions require it to maintain the semblance of independence. It was not for nothing that at the same UN forum, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, visibly distanced India from US-led military interventions.

Israel is getting progressively isolated. Washington’s blind support for it diminishes American influence in this indispensible region. There are hawks in Israel and the United States who believe that these two allies can hit their way out of this unfavourable situation with their preponderant military power. Regional realities, however, militate against Washington joining a military adventure by Tel Aviv. Israel’s security is not enhanced by its opposition to Palestinian statehood. The resumed journey to a Palestinian state with pre-1967 borders can be delayed but not denied.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • It Is Economy Stupid
    Oct 2, 2011 - 10:17PM

    I am confused what article on Palestine has to do with the US exit strategy in Afghanistan and India may be it is a case of bait and switch.

    Also author has a selective memory. He forgot to mention the role Zia- ul- Haq played in Palestinian massacre in Jordan also known as Black September. For his role in this massacre King Husain rewarded Zia with a Mercedes and dollars. Pakistan is not a friend of Palestine it only provides a lip service.

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  • Oct 2, 2011 - 11:10PM

    Israel has perpetuated occupation of
    Arab lands for 45 years, to construct
    ever expanding Jewish settlements in

    Except they are not “Arab” lands but part of the middle east designated as a Jewish Homeland under the British Mandate. Under the Mandate Jews may purchase land and settle where they wish, provided the civil rights of the Arabs in the area are honored. This the Jews have done.

    At one time Pakistan recognized Jordanian sovereignty over the West Bank. Britain was the only other country to do so, and Jordan withdrew its claims in the Israel-Jordan peace treaty.

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  • Shock Horror
    Oct 3, 2011 - 1:53AM

    It is almost impossible, no matter how hard Palestinians and Islamic Countries try, to see Israel giving Jerusalem to Palestine in the next 1000 years.

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  • Levi
    Oct 3, 2011 - 6:33AM

    Anti-Zionism is the new anti-semitism. Don’t let those who dislike (or hate) the Jewish people hide behind the cloak of politics. Anti-semitism has developed into a political hatred directed towards the only democracy in the ME. Genesis 12:3

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  • islooboy
    Oct 3, 2011 - 1:30PM

    @It Is Economy Stupid:
    these things are interlinked

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  • BruteForce
    Oct 3, 2011 - 2:14PM

    For Pakistanis who think India will cow down to the US and enter into a master-servant relationship that for many years defined the relationship between Pakistan and the US, they are sadly mistaken.

    Case in point is the address of the Indian PM, which is essentially against the whole of West!

    India’s domestic policies and its growing Economy will not allow it to become another Pakistan. India has set its mind to become a Super Power and it will achieve this destiny.

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